Fort Sumter didn’t just have a dramatic impact on the city of Charleston. It arguably changed the destiny of the entire United States.
The History of Fort Sumter
Fort Sumter received its name from General Thomas Sumter, a hero of the Revolutionary War who later served as a U.S. Senator. His nickname, the “Carolina Gamecock,” came from his unique and fierce fighting style—and later influenced the mascot of the University of South Carolina, the Gamecocks.
Construction on Fort Sumter began in 1829 at a strategic location in the Charleston harbor—although by the time the Civil War started, the five-sided structure remained unfinished. That’s why Major Robert Anderson of the U.S. Army first found himself at nearby Fort Moultrie just six days after South Carolina seceded from the Union.
Anderson abandoned the site, however, thinking it indefensible while South Carolina militia bore down on him. Instead, he went to the strategic Fort Sumter, despite its unfinished condition. From there, the Union possessed a key blocking point over Charleston harbor.
The governor of South Carolina demanded of then-President Buchanan that the Union abandon the Fort. The North refused, however, leading to a stalemate that lasted for months. By April of 1861, the situation grew dire as Anderson’s men began to run out of food. The newly-elected President Abraham Lincoln ordered a fleet of ships to deliver supplies to Fort Sumter, while Confederate leaders like General P.G.T. Beauregard considered whether they should take the fortress by force. In the early morning hours of April 11th, the Confederates opened fire on the fort, and the Civil War began.
Within days, Fort Sumter fell—and with it, any chance of peace.
Fort Sumter Today
Today, Fort Sumter is a National Monument and perhaps the go-to place to learn about the American Civil War. Situated on an island, the fort is only accessible by boat, which helps to explain its strategic importance during the Civil War—when shipping by sea was the dominant form of trade.
As a National Monument, Fort Sumter is maintained by the National Park Service and routinely open to visitors who want to learn more about the Civil War. Much of Fort Sumter has remained authentic to its appearance during the Civil War. The Fort Sumter National Monument doesn’t charge an entry fee, although you will likely have to pay associated fees for tours.
Although you can’t reach Fort Sumter by horse-drawn carriage, and can be seen depending on your route. The site remains one of the top historic attractions in the city of Charleston.
Schedule a carriage ride today to learn more about the history of Charleston while riding through the city in style.